Book Review Club: Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina

Madame Presidentess coverThe topic for my March readers group was Girl Power, so I read

Madame Presidentess
by Nicole Evelina
Fictionalized Biography

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.

Madame Presidentess is a fictionalized biography of Victoria C. Woodhull, spiritualist, stock broker, suffragette and the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Yes, that’s right. 1872. She challenged against President Grant, who was running for a second term.

Victoria was born into the infamous Claflin clan, a family of spiritualists and grifters. She grew up poor, her family sometimes run out of town because of her father’s scams. As a teenager, she and her sister Tennessee, who achieved her own fame, were forced to give spiritual readings to line the family’s coffers. According to the book, Victoria and Tennessee inherited their mother’s ability to speak to spirits. Victoria’s spirit guide was none other than the Greek philospher Demosthenes.

To escape her abusive parents, Victoria married “Doctor” Canning Woodhull, who seemed like the answer to her dreams, but she soon learned that he was abusive as well. She eventually divorced him and met another man, James Blood, who was connected with the suffragette community. Victoria was a great believer in the need for women’s rights, given her own history.

In New York, she and Tennie met Commodore Vanderbilt, who was interested in spiritualism. The became confidants, and Tennie became his mistress. The sisters learned a lot from him about the stock market, after he asked them to consult the spirits for financial advice. (Victoria found another way to help him.) Thanks to what they learned, the sisters were set up as stock brokers in their own right and were successful for a while.

Victoria Woodhull was a fascinating woman, clearly far ahead of her time. In my opinion, had she stuck to spiritualism and women’s suffrage, she might have gone down in the history books as one of the most influential women of the 19th century. Her downfall was her belief in free love, which she espoused openly. This led to her downfall, her ostracism by the suffragists, and legal troubles.

In the author’s notes at the end of the book I learned that Victoria and Tennesse went to England where they both married well, Tennessee to a viscount! Victoria received only brief mention in Susan B. Anthony’s opus on the history of the movement.

I heard the author speak at the 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland, Oregon, and bought a Kindle copy.

I found the book quite interesting and readable. I wish it had ended on a higher note for Victoria, rather than her fall from grace, but I understand the need for drama and conflict in even fictionalized biography. This is a powerful portrait of a remarkable woman, one nearly lost to history. Recommended for anyone interested in women’s history.


As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.


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98 Years Ago Suffragettes Triumph #WomensEqualityDay

Niney-eight years ago women finally won the right to vote, a triumph of the suffragette movement that went on for sixty years!

womens equality day graphic

2018 Women’s Equality Day graphic from the National Women’s History Project

It still boggles my mind that it took sixty years of courageous activism from several generations of women before they were finally granted the right to vote. The arc of justice certainly does move slowly.

suffragette with sign

Yeah, they were justifiably angry. (Suffragette With A Sign
@ Therealdarla)

It all started with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, called by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. (Date corrected 8/27/18.)

The movement struggled for decades, but the tide turned during and after World War I. The Nineteenth Amendment was passed by Congress on May 21, 1919, before being sent to the states. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee voted and the amendment was ratified. Women voted for the first time that November.

In 1971, feminist and Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced a resolution designating August 26th as Women’s Equality Day, and the resolution passed.

I feel it’s important that women remember the long struggle to win the right to vote. There are still forces in society that would like to stifle our voices. Voting is one way we can make our wishes known to our elected representatives. We learned in the last election, that matters can be decided by a relatively few votes, bringing home the lesson that every vote really does count.

Are you registered for November? I am and I intend to vote.


PS Since it’s also National Dog Day, here’s a picture of my puppy, Callie. I celebrated by making a donation to the Humane Society on Facebook.

Callie sitting

Callie, my rescue pup